AUSTRAC has accused Australian bank Westpac of being responsible for 23 million anti-money laundering breaches.
Westpac could face charges up to AUS$21 million for each transaction that one of Australia’s biggest banks failed to monitor or report. Potentially resulting in a fine of billions of dollars.
AUSTRAC is pursuing the issue in court and has claimed that Westpac was, since 2013, aware of “heightened child exploitation risks associated with people who made frequent low-value payments to the Philippines and South East Asia.”
Westpac maintains that it self-reported the breaches to AUSTRAC and has since closed down the service responsible. CEO, Brian Hartzer has rejected suggestions of ambivalence on the issue, stating: “At a senior executive level, for the board, for me personally, in no way have we been indifferent on this.”
Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said that the board of Westpac “need to determine themselves” whether Hartzer should resign, but made clear that the bank must make decisions that protect people’s interests and safety.
The board appears to be supporting Hartzer following an unreserved apology from Chairman, Lindsay Maxsted and a promise of an independent review to secure accountability for the breaches.